The most important objective of any oil production facility is the separation of water and other foreign materials from the produced crude. The breaking of these “crude oil and water emulsions” constitutes one of the more challenging problems in today’s oil producing industry.
Too high a level of produced water in the exported oil would severely reduce pumping and other transport capacity. Even a small percentage of emulsified water in crude oil increases the cost of pumping due to the larger volume and the higher viscosity of the oil. In addition, the high salinity of the water would cause corrosion and scaling in downstream operations. Using StrataChem’s Emulsion Breakers is a necessity to remove water and associated salts from crude oil in order to save money and continue productivity.
Production of immiscible oil and water through wellhead chokes and valves, along with the simultaneous action of shear and pressure reduction, often produce stable water-in-oil mixtures. The relative stability of these mixtures depends upon many factors such as water cut, the nature of salts present, the viscosity of the oil, and in particular the indigenous surfactants present in the oil.
Some of the water does not mix with the oil to give a stable mixture. This “free water” readily separates from the oil. More often, the conditions of production are such that a stable mixture is formed. Such a mixture is called an emulsion and must be specially treated before separation can occur.